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What Is a Heuristic?

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Definition:

A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about their next course of action. While heuristics are helpful in many situations, they can also lead to biases.

Heuristics play important roles in both problem-solving and decision-making. When we are trying to solve a problem or make a decision, we often turn to these mental shortcuts when we need a quick solution.

While heuristics can speed up our problem and decision-making process, they can introduce errors. Just because something has worked in the past does not mean that it will work again, and relying on an existing heuristic can make it difficult to see alternative solutions or come up with new ideas.

Learn more about two common heuristics: the availability heuristic and the representativeness heuristic.

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